The holiday trip of many Germans currently resembles a gamble at some airports. Whether the flight is late, takes off at all, the luggage arrives – airport operators and airlines cannot guarantee anything at the moment. The summer holidays are just beginning in many federal states and increasing passenger numbers are not a good harbinger of the tense personnel situation.
Workers from Turkey are to help out, according to Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (both SPD). But experts fear that by the time the seasonal workers are ready for action, the vacation high in the number of bookings will have subsided again.
With the exception of Bavaria, security at airports is a sovereign task. In concrete terms, this means that the Federal Police is responsible, but outsources many of their tasks to external service providers. The security clearance and training of new employees takes several weeks.
But the shortage of staff is not only due to the general shortage of workers, it is also a domestic problem – at least in part. This is suggested by data collected by the HR market research company Index. For example, the number of advertisements placed by security personnel did not increase significantly until April and for ground personnel only in May. “Much too late for the expected rush of tourists in the summer season,” says Index.
In the first half of the year, 910 positions for aircraft, baggage and cargo handlers and almost 1,400 positions for security staff were posted. This corresponds to an increase of 261 and 65 percent compared to the same period last year, which had caused a collapse in passenger numbers due to the corona.
“Airports urgently need more staff for the summer season. In addition to pure job advertisements, we see a great need for specialist campaigns with social media marketing, advertising in public transport and industry-specific job portals,” says Philipp Diefenbach, Head of Marketing and Agency Services at the Index Group.
Expenditure on placing job advertisements for the ground crew (EUR 273,000 or up 574 percent) and security personnel (EUR 710,000 or up 65 percent) also increased significantly. This shows “the dramatic personnel situation”. Advertisements in 191 print media, on 185 online job exchanges, around 135,000 company websites and in the job portal of the Federal Employment Agency were analyzed for the evaluation.
The mass layoffs that were enforced in the course of the pandemic are also taking revenge today. For example, Fraport, Germany’s largest airport operator, decided in late autumn 2020 to cut around 4,000 jobs. Some employees even received bonuses if they were willing to leave the company.
Today the opposite is the case: Fraport now pays a sign-up bonus of 2,000 euros for anyone who takes the risk of only getting a job if they successfully complete the required background check. CEO Stefan Schulte said this to journalists on Tuesday. For the remaining aircraft handlers there was a wage agreement with a pay increase of 14 percent.
It’s no wonder that Fraport was looking for the most new employees for the ground crew and security check by far. According to the index, 484 positions in these areas were advertised at Germany’s largest commercial airport in the first half of the year, followed by the capital’s airport BER (212 positions) and Cologne-Bonn Airport (170 positions).
In Berlin, the demand seems to be covered – according to research by the “Berliner Zeitung”, the service providers see themselves in a good position for the summer holidays. “We don’t see a need at the moment. There is enough staff,” said Stefan Hartung, spokesman for Swissport. The company is one of three companies that work as a ground handling service provider at BER. This statement is particularly surprising because the queues and waiting times were particularly long in Berlin during the past holidays. BER currently recommends that all passengers arrive at the respective terminal two and a half hours before departure.
However, passengers should expect further inconveniences. Flying has become significantly more expensive. Among the destinations most frequently booked by Germans, flights to Spain have become the most expensive, as a survey by the comparison portal Check24 shows. Before the pandemic, tourists paid an average of 165 euros for a return flight, it is currently around 272 euros – which corresponds to an increase of 65 percent. The price increases for flights to Italy (plus 58 percent) and Portugal (plus 52 percent) are similarly high.
“The main reasons for significantly more expensive air travel are inflation and the increase in the cost of kerosene,” says Christian Meier, Managing Director Flights at Check24. “At the same time, there is an increased demand for air travel on airlines that have significantly reduced their fleets and thus a reduced offer.” On average, the flight prices for the ten most frequently booked flight destinations of Germans rose by 44 percent. The increase for flights to the USA (plus eleven percent) and Great Britain (plus nine percent) is less strong.
Meanwhile, the airport chaos is becoming a political issue. The Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag is now calling for an “air travel summit” with the participation of the responsible ministers. According to the applicants, it is surprising when Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) states that he is neither responsible nor responsible for the personnel policy of the airport companies and airlines. By September at the latest, the federal government must also develop a long-term sustainable concept to prevent such situations in the future.
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